Software Malfunctions and Defects in Self-Driving Vehicles

Autonomous car concept. Driverless vehicle.

Self-driving vehicles are highly sought after for their innovation and convenience. However, they are not without their share of problems. Not only can road, traffic, and weather conditions present challenges for autonomous vehicles, but software malfunctions can occur that create a substantial safety risk. If you purchased an autonomous car with software issues that cannot be repaired, it’s important to be aware that you may be entitled to relief under California’s Lemon Law.

What Types of Software Failures Occur in Self-Driving Vehicles?

There are different levels of autonomy in self-driving cars. For instance, a vehicle may have a driver assistance system or be fully autonomous. Unfortunately, high-tech equipment in vehicles often means there are more mechanisms that can malfunction. Self-driving cars utilize radars, sensors, cameras, and software to function — and dangerous conditions can arise if any of these parts are subject to a glitch or defect.

Software defects and nonconformities can lead to a number of issues, including the following:

  • Software integration failures
  • Autopilot malfunctions
  • Cruise control failure
  • Autobrake issues
  • Lane change errors
  • Failure to detect and avoid objects
  • Forward collision warning system malfunctions

As new technology is implemented into vehicles, the number of software issues has increased in recent years. In some cases, software defects and nonconformities can be resolved with an update. But if the issue cannot be repaired after several attempts have been made, the vehicle might be a lemon.

Recent Tesla Software Issues in Autonomous Vehicles

Earlier this year, Tesla announced a significant recall in connection with software issues. The recall concerns a “rolling stop” feature that enabled drivers to program the Tesla to slow down under specific conditions, without making a full stop at stop signs. The feature was first introduced in October 2020 as part of an update to Tesla’s Full Self-Driving beta software and was implemented in 53,822 vehicles. Although no injuries were reported to Tesla, the manufacturer released a software upgrade to disable the rolling stops.

Last November, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported it was looking into a driver’s complaint concerning a crash allegedly caused by the Full Self-Driving software in a Model Y. The driver stated that while making a left-hand turn, the vehicle went into the wrong lane and was struck by another driver in the adjacent lane. According to the driver, the car ended up taking control and forced itself to move into the correct lane. No one was injured in the collision.

Do Software Problems Mean Your Self-Driving Car is a Lemon?

A software issue doesn’t necessarily mean your car is a lemon. But if the problem persists and cannot be repaired after several trips to the dealership, you may be able to assert your right to a refund or replacement from the manufacturer. Under California’s Lemon Law, a consumer may be able to pursue a lemon law claim if the software defect is substantial and makes the vehicle fail to conform to its warranty. In addition, the vehicle must have been purchased within the state of California.

Four unsuccessful repair attempts usually suffice to establish a vehicle is a lemon. However, if the software defect is one that involves a safety hazard, only two repair attempts are generally needed. A vehicle may also qualify as a lemon under the statute if it is at the service shop for a total of 30 days or more and repair attempts have not been successful or made at all. It is essential to document all repair attempts and maintain a record of any communications with the dealership and manufacturer — this documentation can serve as critical evidence in a lemon law lawsuit.

In addition, there is a legal presumption in California that a vehicle is a lemon if an unrepairable defect — including software issues — arose within 18 months of the vehicle’s delivery, or before the first 18,000 miles were driven. In such cases, the manufacturer has the burden of rebutting the presumption to prevail. The lemon law presumption can make it much easier for a consumer to win their lemon law claim since no additional proof is needed, other than showing that one of the above conditions was met.

Contact a Knowledgeable Southern California Lemon Law Attorney

If you purchased a self-driving car that has software issues that cannot be repaired with an update, it might be a lemon. An experienced lemon law attorney can assess the facts of your case and best advise you regarding your options. At the Ledbetter Law Firm, we are dedicated to offering high-quality counsel and reliable representation to consumers who have been subjected to the hassle and inconvenience of owning a lemon vehicle.

The Ledbetter Law Firm works with clients throughout Southern California who have purchased lemon vehicles and assists them with obtaining the refund or replacement vehicle they deserve from the manufacturer. With offices conveniently located in Torrance and San Diego, California, telephone and video conferencing options are also available. Call (310) 878-0067 to schedule a consultation with a California Lemon Law attorney today.